Jeremy Hunt says he 'won't hand over any notes to Rachel Reeves' as he defends Tories ahead of election

Jeremy Hunt says he 'won't hand over any notes to Rachel Reeves' as he defends Tories ahead of election
Georgia Pearce

By Georgia Pearce

Published: 03/03/2024

- 11:41

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said he is "not planning to hand over any notes to Rachel Reeves" as he defends the Conservatives ahead of the general election.

In response to a suggestion that high taxes are “un-Conservative”, he said: “I'll just say first of all that I do want to bring taxes down. Absolutely. They're too high. And why do I want to bring them down? Because I look around the world and the most dynamic, fastest growing economies in North America and Asia are generally countries where the tax burden is lower. So yes, I want to bring them down.

“We spent nearly £500 billion supporting families in the pandemic and in the cost of living crisis. That was the right thing to do. Because of that unemployment is at historic lows. And I think we did the right thing there. It has to be paid for. Now we need to get back on a path to lower taxes. I will do that in a responsible way. I hope to show progress but this is not something that is going to happen overnight.”

On the Office of Budget Responsibility being too gloomy in its forecasts, he said: “It was the Conservative government that set up the OBR in 2010. And the reason that we set it up was because people worried that when Gordon Brown was doing his budgets, under the previous Labour Government, Chancellors were cooking the books, they were giving forecasts that gave an unduly rosy picture of the situation. And people wanted to have confidence that what a chancellor said the figures that a Chancellor announced have been independently verified.

“In fairness to the OBR they are, of course, they've made mistakes in their forecasts, but they are more accurate than the forecast that the Treasury used to do when we didn't have an OBR and they are broadly in line with other forecasters. But look, I don't say that, you know, there aren't things that you can improve in the systems that we have, but fundamentally what people at home want to know is that when you cut taxes, it's forever, and that's why we want to go on this path to lower taxes. We want to do so in a way that is credible, sustainable, and people know is responsible.”

On defence spending, he said: “Well, I do think going forward, we will need to spend more money on defence. And we have said that as soon as it is possible to do so. Within our economic context. We'll increase that spending to 2.5% of GDP, but can I just say, Rishi Sunak when he was doing my job as Chancellor gave the defence sector the biggest sustained increase in funding since the Cold War.

Asked about a potential cap on migration, he said: “I think migration in limited numbers can be beneficial, but what I think is wrong is this idea that you should get economic growth by allowing in more migrants.

“First of all, the Treasury is not a proponent of that. What we want to do is create a high wage, high skill economy that is not dependent on unlimited migration. Secondly, their migration is too high, but it is because there were some very specific international factors such as Ukraine.

“What is decided for the next Parliament will be a matter for the manifesto. But what we want to do and what I'll be doing on Wednesday is saying how do we move from an economy that has been dependent on migration for growth to a high wage, high skill economy that is not dependent on high levels of migration and that is a profoundly different approach to the Labour Party. They have no strategy or no plan to control migration. We do, it's not been easy…”

Asked he would leave a note for Rachel Reeves if Labour wins the next election, he said: “I'm not planning to hand over any notes to Rachel Reeves because I'm intending to win the next election. But what I would say is that look at the difficult decisions that I took a year ago as chancellor to balance the books when Labour had a financial crisis. Did they take any difficult decisions before the 2010 election? No, and that's why they ran out of money.”


Latest Politics videos

Don't Miss

Best of Politics

Latest videos

More videos